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Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 15 October 2011

What is Da Dan Brown Code All About?

I've been asked what the idea is behind Da Dan Brown Code?  It's a reasonable enough question.

A few years ago I spent a considerable amount of time working away from home, terrible for family life but at least I didn't waste the time away from family as I focussed my spare time on writing and reading.  I wrote Skin over that period but it was about the time that the Da Vinci Code hit the top of the charts and was being talked up virtually everywhere.  In a relatively short period of time I found myself ploughing through all of Dan Brown's books.

Now this isn't a pop at Dan Brown; he's openly reported as having read a paperback thriller and, being disappointed with the book, resolving to write a better thriller.  I think Mr Brown has played fast and loose with plot lines, but hey, it's fiction.  My chief grumbles with his books can be mapped to many other Authors as well.

First, there is the ridiculously short chapters.  I get it, I've done it myself.  Dan is writing for people who have short periods to engage with a book; on a bus trip, waiting for a friend, during a coffee break. What I don't get is when a chapter finishes, only to be followed by the next chapter in exactly the same location, with the same characters, facing the same problems.  In my book, that's called the next paragraph.

Then there's the technology.  I write Sci fi, I freely extrapolate science and technology to suit the plot.  But a GPS receiver placed in a pocket, inside the Louvre, as far from the sight of satellites as is physically possible, working?  And I struggle to get my Sat Nav to work in an open space!  Give me a break.

A real bugbear with me, though, is how aircraft, and particularly helicopters, are misrepresented in print.  If helicopters were an ethnic minority, there'd be an outcry.  To be fair to Dan Brown, he's a beginner at writing nonsense about aircraft in fiction (although he clearly hasn't a clue about the blast from a jet engine within an enclosed hangar).  One of the most outrageous descriptions was in Atlantis by David Gibbons  - he'd clearly sat close enough to a helicopter pilot to realise there was at least one extra control managed in the cockpit, but not close enough to work out what it did - the text was pretty cringe inducing.

So I started writing a ludicrous story invoking very short chapters that didn't change location or plot line often, parodying some of the characters and plots in the Dan Brown series, but pretty soon I found the story taking on an existence of its own.  If you've read the story this far you may have realised that the characters all know they are characters in a book; it's what they do.  So, as the story unfolds, with its awful puns and ludicrous situations, we become aware that we're looking at the novel from the inside, focusing on the story from the character's perspective, rather than from the usual reader's.

And it's meant to be a bit of fun.  Some of the gags are probably too clever for their own good - I know I sometimes have to re-read a passage two or three times before I work out the joke and given that I wrote it, God help the rest of you!  Other gags are so obvious you'll see them coming a couple of chapters ahead.

So it's not specifically a mickey take on the work of Dan Brown, and if it's a parody then it's a parody on all writers of thriller fiction, and that includes me.  And if anyone works out how it ends, please let me know, because I haven't written the that bit yet!

Da Dan Brown Code is being serialised every Wednesday and Sunday on this blog and is scheduled to run until the New Year.

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